Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Election Time!

All two-hundred-and-forty Amherst Town Meeting seats are up for re-election this year; I'm one of 41 candidates running for election in Precinct 9 (the top 24! vote-getters will be elected).

Yes, it is kind of a crazy way to run a Town; I've never bothered to see if there's been any serious research into whether the form of Town government actually makes a difference to their success. I suppose even defining "success" would be hard; New York City is arguably the most successful US city, but I wouldn't live there if you paid me to.

If you're an Amherst voter, go to the Sustainable Amherst website, print out their handy 2012 election guide, and then go vote on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bully Petition

I can't help it; it seems like I always look at things a little sideways.

Case in point: the petition to get the MPAA to give the movie "Bully" a PG-13 rating.

The argument is:
Because of the R rating, most kids won’t get to see this film. No one under 17 will be allowed to see the movie, and the film won’t be allowed to be screened in American middle schools or high schools.
My first thought is "Darn Right! Bullying is bad! Where do I sign?"

But then I start to wonder: is that true? Does an R rating really mean it won't be allowed to be shown in schools?

Maybe the real problem is inflexible school policies that rely exclusively on MPAA ratings instead of letting teachers decide whether or not their classes are mature enough to hear the "f-word."

So I sent an email to the Amherst schools administration and got a very helpful response:
Teachers are asked to check in with their principals before showing a movie that has not been shown in the past as part of a unit of study. You can go to the arps website under school committee policy manual to read them.
And, indeed, the policy for Amherst Schools has nothing to do with MPAA ratings. Bravo! I'm glad we don't have one-size-fits-all policies.

Of course my third thought on all of this is:  I wonder if showing movies about the bad effects of bullying is an effective way to decrease bullying. It sure seems like it should, but without data from a controlled experiment, I wouldn't bet that it does.